April 21, 2013

Federal cuts put women and children last

In forcing the sequester, House Republicans have ensured cuts to programs that fund breast and cervical cancer screenings, child-care assistance and more.

By SUSAN FEINER

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Staff Illustration/Michael Fisher

The $204,500 in sequester cuts for senior nutrition is a serious financial kick in the pants to Meals on Wheels. There will be fewer meals delivered and fewer group meals prepared. Even before these cuts, 12 percent of Maine's seniors were at risk for hunger. Now even more people will be hungry, and the providers of elder care will have to do more shopping and more food preparation. 

They cut past fluff down to the core, cut basic programs and then even more.

They had to know these cuts would make more families poor.

Yes, they cut the funds for housing, for fuel and even food.

It was sad when the deep cuts came down. 

What else is on the chopping block?

The sequester doesn't discriminate by age. Programs for early childhood care and education will be hit hard. Across the state, Head Start is closing classrooms. Head Start cuts of $2.4 million will lead to 82 jobs lost and 393 fewer children served.

From the State House to the Chamber of Commerce, business leaders are bellyaching about a shortage of skilled workers and the need to improve high school graduation rates. They must not know that low-income/at-risk kids who attend Head Start have better educational attainment than do similar kids who don't have a Head Start experience.

Fewer Mainers will graduate from high school and the shortage of skilled workers will get worse. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. 

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Did I mention that 740 fewer kids will be vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza and hepatitis B?

Guess who'll miss days of work to care for them when they get sick? Yep. Mom. You can be sure the cost in lost work time will exceed the $51,000 that won't be spent on these immunization programs. 

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Sequester-induced cuts to K-12 education programs are equally harsh. More than 16,000 students in Maine will be adversely affected.

According to the Maine Education Association, cuts to special education programs will eliminate 39 teaching jobs, leaving 1,445 kids without the support they need.

Total K-12 job losses will be about 200, focused mostly in the poorest school districts, where students need more attention, not less.

On top of that, about 1,100 students won't get career and technical training. And nearly 1,000 teachers won't participate in teacher improvement activities.

Cuts at the college level hit federal work-study and financial aid programs. More students will take on more debt as work-study positions are scaled back, and fewer grants are available. Remember, it's the 21st century. Education is more important than ever. 

The cuts sure slammed the weak, now their future's very bleak.

Stand with me, friends, don't turn the other cheek.

Is there a name for all the cuts we see? It's called "austerity."

It was sad when the deep cuts came down. 

But wait. How did we get to a place where cutting the federal deficit is more important than educating our kids? Or feeding our families? Or heating our homes? 

They threw the poor folks over, in the dark and stormy sea.

Boehner should be singing "Nearer, My God, to Thee."

Yes, the people wept and cried as their paychecks up and died.

It was sad when the great cuts came down. 

Quick review. Despite mass unemployment -- there are 26.8 million unemployed or underemployed people in the U.S. today -- politicians are obsessing about deficit spending. "The deficit is out of control," they warn. As House Speaker John Boehner put it, "The American people know you can't continue to spend money that you don't have."

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